A Useless Commentary

We all know that bible study tools are extremely helpful, but what if I were to tell you that creating a new Bible commentary would be totally useless?

One of the hats that I get to wear, as the president of Deaf Bible Society, is the advocacy hat. Many times, as I am out building our network and fundraising for the organization, I often have to take off my fundraising hat and put on my education hat. One story I would like to share, is a commentary story that had a major impact on one of my travels.

I was in the Southeast meeting with a newly introduced person, working within a pretty major organization. This organization specialized in apologetics and biblical philosophy and was quite known for its many publishings. As I was at lunch with this new friend, I was explaining our work in sign language Bible translation and distribution, and trying to help him understand the needs for this work. He immediately stopped me and said,

“but what about commentary? Don’t the Deaf need a good Bible commentary in American Sign Language?” Of course, all I could do was agree with him. I said,

“I believe that we should have several commentaries developed in American Sign Language, we should have Biblical and Systematic Theology resources developed in American Sign Language, and we should have resources for Christology and Christian hedonism developed in American Sign Language!” I then just sat there and looked at him. He then asked,

“So why don’t you develop one?”

“Because it is hard to commentate on something that doesn’t exist!” I responded. I went on, “There is not ONE sign language in the world with a complete Bible, and only ONE of the estimated 400+ sign languages has a new testament.”

How do we expect to develop good BIBLICAL resources in a sign language, when a BIBLE does not exist in that sign language?

After a moment of silence, this new friend looked at me and simply said,

“Brother, we have a problem. WE NEED BIBLES!”

Finally, the point I was trying to make sunk in. Their own organization can not effectively engage the US Deaf audience, as they do not have resources available in American Sign Language. We cannot develop these resources in American Sign Language because there would be no full Bible to reference back to! What we have to understand is that this goes beyond a literacy issue. If I were to quote the statistics of 65% of Deaf Americans being illiterate, you would assume that had something to do with intelligence rather than language difference.

Once my friend realized that the problem was related to language access, effective teaching and learning his whole world was changed. To this day, he is a faithful advocate and advisor as we try to educate other organizations within this network.

The problem still exists that millions of Deaf people live their lives without access to the Bible in their language… their SIGN LANGUAGE. While we are seeing great progress made in the area of Bible translation, there are still millions who are not aware some of these resources are being developed.

You and I have the opportunity to engage people with the Gospel in their sign language, unlike any other time in history. You and I have the opportunity to be a part of the final frontier of new language Bible translation. Through prayer, giving, and going we can make God’s name great among the sign language nations! I pray you will seek how you can be sure that, when it comes time for sign language commentary, it will certainly be a useful one.  12622095_10153966296493707_8524354221170163089_o

For Such A Time As This

It was around the year 1439 when Johannes Gutenberg began to work on something that would be revolutionary for the world. His invention of mechanical movable type printing changed the way information was shared for hundreds of years! This and other advancements led up to more efficient bulk printing and began to carry education and other literary resources to the nations like never before. We saw nations impacted by the mass importing of the Bible, teaching, and catechisms unlike anytime in history.

What would you do to have been able to contribute to such a movement as that? I know there are many wonderful causes and ministries that you are already giving to, but can you imagine what it would be like to have given to that cause? Imagine yourself having been one of the founding donors and partners in such a ministry. Imagine that for generations all of the ministries and organizations that would benefit from those foundational stones that you helped put in place with the Gutenberg press. It would be quite exciting huh?

Well what if I told you there is a similar opportunity for you to have such an impact TODAY? In fact there is a movement among us that is putting the foundational stones in place so for generations to come millions of people will be reached with the Gospel because of this effort.

Today we have the opportunity to build foundations and put things in place that will allow us to reach and engage one of the largest most unreached/unengaged people groups in the world. They are not specific to a geographic region or bound by the borders of nations. They are all around us. They are our worlds Signers. They are our worlds Deaf people groups.

Signers, or the Deaf, are a people unlike any other in the world. Everything they do, communicate, and share is visual. Their entire cultures and languages are based on visuals. They are exactly like you other than the fact that they communicate in a different language. Actually if you have been sitting in a Starbucks or any other cafe for the last half hour chances are a Signer has been through and you never even noticed.

You are probably wondering why I keep referring to them as signers and not just saying “Deaf people”. No, this is not a more politically correct term, or even something that is formally used in any particular setting. Actually to be honest this is just a personal term I like to use. I am a person who hears, but I am also a CODA (child of Deaf adults). Being a CODA I have been signing my whole life. Actually I sign in my sleep, and still today I seem to connect more with signed scripture than when reading it. We also tend to view Deaf people as a subset of our culture and community and then the only difference is that they can’t hear. When really it is much more than something related to the ability or inability to hear… Signers have a strong history, strong culture, and beautiful languages. It is because of these things, and my desire to be included :-), that I say signer(s). 

Signers have been severally denied access to scripture. This hasn’t been something intentional from the oral (hearing) christian community, but really is because of something I call “innocent ignorance”. The oral church hasn’t really understood the Deaf community and how to work with them. There haven’t been efficient platforms put in place for Deaf leaders within the church to lead effectively and have successful partnerships with major oral organizations. The fact is that the biggest barrier preventing signers from having access to scripture is the fact that there isn’t any. Did you know that of the 400+ sign languages in the world there isn’t a full Bible translated into a single one.

This is a big problem! Not one sign language has a complete Bible?!!? No wonder evangelism in the signing community is tough, no wonder it is hard to plant sign cultured churches, and no wonder missions among signers is difficult. There are not enough Bible resources translated into these signed languages so Deaf leaders can know how to move forward, but DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED! Today there is hope!

Just like the impact the Gutenberg press had on the world and missions. Today technology is at a place where we can make a significant impact in taking the Gospel to signers all around the world! Deaf Bible has partnered with Sign Language Bible Translators all around the world to provide accessibility to signed Bibles for any signer anywhere. Currently Deaf Bible provides signers with access to Bible content in 15 different sign languages through the Deaf Bible app, the podcast store, and online at DeafBible.com or Bible.is/Deaf.

This next year Deaf Bible will begin scripture engagement programs in these 15 language groups using our digital formats along with solar powered devices. Currently only 2% of the Deaf world has been engaged with scripture. It is our vision to see that 75% of the world’s Deaf population be engaged with scripture in their heart sign language by 2025. This is not just our vision, but it is a collaborative effort between us and some of our translation partners like DOOR International.

Today you have the opportunity to make a significant impact on a largely unreached people group. You have the opportunity to donate and see people engage with scripture for years to come because of this Gutenberg moment. We have our “printing press” but we need more languages, and we need more tools to engage these signers with God’s Word. Would you consider making a donation this Christmas to this Gutenberg moment in history, and see millions of Deaf lives impacted by having God’s Word in their Heart Sign Language.

For just as it was said to Esther, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14

You have a purpose, and God has blessed you with resources and has brought you into His Kingdom. Who knows whether or not it was for such a time as this and for such a cause as this.

Every dollar you donate goes directly to bringing the Bible to the Deaf in their heart language. Would you join us?

Until all the Deaf have seen, 

J.R. Bucklew

©coda4christ

©DeafBible